Scores of concerned residents crowded into a public meeting on Thursday night (July 5th) to air their concerns about a controversial scheme to build more than 120 new homes on a public field next to Highbridge’s Lakeside housing development.
A heated debate took place at the Town Council Chambers in Burnham-On-Sea where agent Toni Hammick defended the scheme against strong local opposition.
Residents aired their concerns about the loss of public open space, poor road access and increased traffic, the environmental impact, and the safety of a rhyne running across the site.
Resident Charlie Tillam told the meeting: “All I hear is money, money, money – no-one is fighting our corner or considering the residents’ opinions here.”
She told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “We are fighting this not just for Lakeside residents but for the whole Highbridge community – there are other open spaces earmarked for development. If this one goes through, it just opens the doors.”
“This is not a safe place to build 120 family homes surrounded by five lakes with an open railway line, an industrial estate and two rhynes running along the field. The A38 access is horrendous and traffic increases daily due to the industrial estates being expanded. The Lakeside road is not wide or strong enough.”
“We need schools built like the one that was promised us years ago. We need doctors, more hospital facilities and the green land protected with wildlife on it for our children and their children. Stand with us, not just to protect Lakeside but the whole community area for the local children.”
Resident Jason Edwards added: “We all bought homes here because it was a quiet estate. The public services are just not there to support another housing development – the doctors surgeries are already busy with 2-week waits for appointments. I will have 300 extra vehicles a day coming past my house if this gets the go-ahead, so access is a big issue for me.”
Chris Brewer from Highbridge Angling Association, which oversees the angling lakes next to the proposed development, also spoke out against the “unacceptable” plans.
He said: “As a significant land owner with approximately 21 acres of land adjacent to the proposed development, we strongly object to houses being built adjacent to, or on our land. The development will have unacceptable impacts to our club.”
“We have the right to privacy, we have a duty to protect our land and environment for all our members. We also have a right to protect our business as a fishing club. This development will remove our right for privacy for all our members – the bespoke houses will have balconies overlooking our land and lakes.” He also raised concerns about the impact to night fishing, extra noise and disturbance, light pollution and security.
Local resident Brian Burt added: “Access onto the A38 is a big concern, plus the wildlife. This has always been a nicely isolated public field and I think it should stay that way.”
Talking to Burnham-On-Sea.com after Thursday’s meeting, the agent Toni Hammick said: “It was a heated meeting because the only people that came along were objectors who live there. They are a small proportion of the whole Highbridge population. That said, I do understand their concerns and we are addressing them.”
She told the meeting: “Following comments made by residents about density, it is now proposed that 121 units are delivered – a loss of 9 units from the initial proposals. The proposals show 18 dwellings per acre.”
“Regarding the access road through Lakeside, the road will be built to adoptable standards. The developer wishes to assure residents that there will be no encroachment from the improvements on private land.”
On concerns about affordable housing, she said: “This is an open market development and Sedgemoor District Council’s requirement is 30% should be affordable housing.”
She also added that fears about children’s safety next to the rhyne have been addressed, with the rhyne to be shelved and landscaped, while the play space will be fenced.
She added: “We have also removed the three-storey blocks from the northern end of the site – all dwellings on the northern boundary backing onto the Lakeside development will now be two storey. We have listened.”
And she added that “the proposed development will generate community infrastructure payments of £301,616 to be used by the district council towards schools, a doctors surgery and other local amenities.”
Toni, pictured below right, told Burnham-On-Sea.com: “The field is impassable and unusable for most of the year due to it being locked by the council and because of the depth of the grass. Instead, we plan to give the people an area of open space, with play space and a trim trail – it will be a lovely open area for people to enjoy rather than a cut-off field.”
She added that the planning application would be lodged “shortly” and that residents would then have the opportunity to formally give their feedback on the plans via Sedgemoor’s planning website.
Resident Denzil Clarke, who is leading a group of residents called the ‘Lakeside Residents Public Open Space Committee’, said after the meeting: “The level of information from the agent was much improved from the previous consultation event in June. It was more informative, but there are still lots of questions and concerns to be answered.”
Sedgemoor District Council has reassured residents living next to the field that any potential sale of the public field to make room for a huge proposed new housing development would be ‘subject to a full public consultation exercise’.